On Wednesday morning, a hostage situation developed at maximum security facility in Delaware when a group of convicts took four corrections workers hostage.
The start of the hostage crisis occurred shortly after 10:30 am on Wednesday morning when a guard radioed for help regarding a significant incident involving inmates and some of the staff. Four corrections officer were taken hostage by the convicts, and the prison was immediately placed on lockdown.
Authorities originally reported that five staff members had been taken hostage during the prison break, but the fifth was found later in another section of the prison. Two of the hostages were released quickly, while two remained in control of the maximum security prisoners. The first was released on Wednesday around 2:30 pm, while the other was set free shortly before 8 pm. One of the hostages had received injuries which reports indicate were not life threatening. Several prisoners were also released and exited the building during each of the hostage exchanges.
The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, houses approximately 2,500 inmates and is the largest prison complex in the state. JTVCC employs about 1,500 corrections officers. It is a Level 5 maximum security prison. While there are minimum and medium security prisoners in the complex, this means some of the inmates are among the most dangerous in the prison system as both maximum security and death row prisoners are housed here. This prison is also unique in that it once housed the only operating gallows in Delaware, which was dismantled in 2003 after the inmate sentenced to hang was re-sentenced to life.
The prisoners contacted a local news station with a list of their demands. According to WREG, “inmates reached out to The News Journal in Wilmington in two phone calls to explain their actions and make demands. Prisoners funneled the calls to the paper with the help of one inmate’s fiancee and another person’s mother. The mother told the paper her son was among the hostages.”
The demands included better education options for the incarcerated, more transparency with how money is allocated within the prison system, as well as more effective rehabilitation for the inmates. The hostage-takers also blamed Donald Trump for their actions. WREG reports the prisoners stated, “Donald Trump. Everything that he did. All the things that he’s doing now. We know that the institution is going to change for the worse.”
Ultimately, negotiations broke down, and police breached the prison block where the hostages were being held. One of the two, a male guard, was found unresponsive on the scene and later pronounced dead. The other hostage, a female DOC worker, was rescued apparently unharmed and taken to a hospital to be examined.
The authorities have yet to reveal what has happened to the hostage takers. Governor John Carney addressed the results of the hostage crisis, saying “This serves as a tragic reminder that members of law enforcement risk their lives every day on behalf of the people of Delaware. We will stand by the fallen officer’s family and fellow law enforcement officers during what is an extremely difficult time,” NBC reported. “I want to thank all those involved in responding, including officers at the Department of Correction and the Delaware State Police, as well as our federal partners. Our priority now will be to determine what happened and how this happened. We will hold accountable anyone who was responsible. And we will make whatever changes are necessary to ensure nothing like it ever happens again.”
Carney is expected to join several high-ranking members of the Department of Corrections today at 10:30 am EST for a press conference regarding the tragedy.
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